Special equipment: A piping bag.
Beat the butter, brown sugar and molasses together in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, eggs and orange zest. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until incorporated. Add the spiced flour mixture and beat until the dough just comes together. Fold in the chocolate chips. Scoop the dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and refrigerate on a plate or baking sheet until firm, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, adjust the oven racks to the top and lower third of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
Arrange the chilled dough balls about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the tops of the hermits are no longer glossy and the edges are firm, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
For the glaze: While the cookies cool, mix the confectioners' sugar, egg whites and vanilla seeds in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until smooth and shiny.
Transfer the glaze to a piping bag and pipe stripes onto the cooled hermits. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
(notes on recipe below images from the retreat)
|The meditation center at Heartwood (or the "hermitage")|
Traditionally, hermit cookies have some kind of dried fruit in them, instead of chocolate. I have to say that I think Chef Zakarian made a misstep in his variation, because despite the orange zest, the combination of molasses plus dark brown sugar plus chocolate chips just results in a murky flavor. I would pull back to regular brown sugar and add vibrance through dried fruit and maybe a nut, or even some oats. (I probably wouldn't make this actual recipe again, because aside from the murky flavor of the cookies, who wants to deal with egg white for cookies named for simplicity? I didn't.)